Tag Archives: landscaping

Remaking the back yard

After mucking out the back yard, Victor and Francisco pivot, putting in place the cleaned up, organized landscaping that Steven, Jacquela, Jadin and Adobe will need to put the back yard to use.

There’s a truckload of gravel for drainage and mulch.
Victor considers what comes next. Already, he and Francisco emplaced metal edging, weed block fabric, and began covering the weed block with gravel from the truckbed. The gravel ensures drainage around the posts of the fence in the neighbor’s yard — water needs to be able to flow away from the wood, not stand in place and rot it. And insects like termites can’t eat rock mulch. The piles of rock are temporary — Victor will use these to create a “rock garden” across the mulch beds. The rocks were left behind when we blew out a section of the back yard to build the new garage bay. The bare metal fence posts are left behind from the old, rotten, bug-ridden cedar fence that Austin Bros. Fencing removed earlier. One of Steven’s goals is to eliminate as much as possible anything termites might eat.
This is the northeast corner of the house at Jadin’s bedroom — finally cleared of the plastic shed left behind by a previous owner. Victor cleaned out weeds and added more gravel, after laying out a line of brick left behind from demo of parts of the house.
This is where we moved the plastic shed to — the far back at the northeast corner of the lot, sitting atop a fresh bed of gray gravel. Steven will move the wheelbarrow and other gardening tools into the shed — along with the dog agility equipment on his list of projects to build.
180 degrees to the right of the shed — the metal poles that supported the old, bug-infested fence that Austin Bros. ripped out; the new gates that Austin Bros. installed, and what might serve as a parking spot, if needed, behind the garage. Steven has ideas for a Japanese-style rock garden.
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Taking down the dying magnolia

There’s a magnolia in the northwest corner of the front yard, near the street, that is dying. It’s been dying for a long time. The crown is bare of leaves and the wood is brittle, sometimes breaking away in strong winds.

Steven hired Victor to muck out the back yard and take down the magnolia; it was textbook This Old House.

Several neighbors chatted as they walked past, as Victor took down the magnolia. Everyone was happy to see it go — it’s not native to Austin. The oaks will draw more water and light.

Here’s a photo essay.

Victor begins by trimming away as many low-hanging branches as he can reach, focusing on the middle of trunk, where several low-hanging limbs stretch widest, creating the most hazard.
Victor begins by trimming away as many low-hanging branches as he can reach, focusing on the middle of trunk, where several low-hanging limbs stretch widest, creating the most hazard. The magnolia still has green leaves in this middle range, but the crown is denuded, dead.
With the magnolia prepped, Victor cuts a series of wedges into the trunck, near the ground. The wedges take out a slice of wood in the direction he wants the tree to fall when it is cut and finally topples.
With the magnolia prepped, Victor cuts a series of wedges into the trunck, near the ground. The wedges take out a slice of wood in the direction he wants the tree to fall when it is cut and finally topples. Victor is wearing a dust mask and safety glasses.
After cutting away the wedges that are now opposite the camera, Victor used his chain saw to cut into the trunk at the side of the tree facing the camera. In the street, Victor and his brother Francisco pull taut a rope tied high around the tree that they will use to topple the tree.
After cutting away the wedges that are now opposite the camera, Victor used his chain saw to cut into the trunk at the side of the tree facing the camera. In the street, Victor and his brother Francisco pull taut a rope tied high around the tree that they will use to topple the tree.
First pull. The trunk snaps and begins to lean.
First pull. The trunk snaps and begins to lean.
Leaning.
Leaning.
Leaning.
Leaning.
The point of no going back.
The point of no going back.
Toppling.
Toppling.
The first branch touches ground.
The first branch touches ground.
Crash.
Crash. Actually more like a dull thunk. Anticlimactic.
Cutting down the tree exposes just how close it was to dying. The center of the trunk is soft, with no structure. The black ring indicates the division between live wood around the circumference and dead wood at the heart of the tree.
Cutting down the tree exposes just how close it was to dying. The center of the trunk is soft, with no structure. The black ring indicates the division between live wood around the circumference and dead wood at the heart of the tree.
The crown landed precisely where Victor planned -- on Dale's driveway next door. She was OK with the mess and taking out the tree, because she didn't want it toppling in a storm. Victor and Francisco quickly cleaned up the mess. All this wood from the crown of the magnolia was dead, brittle. It crumbled and snapped in our hands.
The crown landed precisely where Victor planned — on Dale’s driveway next door. She was OK with the mess and taking out the tree, because she didn’t want it toppling in a storm. Victor and Francisco quickly cleaned up the mess. All this wood from the crown of the magnolia was dead, brittle. It crumbled and snapped in our hands.
An example of how dead the crown of the tree was -- the main trunk just snapped away on its own as it hit the ground.
An example of how dead the crown of the tree was — the main trunk just snapped away on its own as it hit the ground.
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Mucking out the back yard

With sprinkler repairs underway, with the fences and gates erected to create a safe yard for Adobe to burn off crazy-puppy calories while attempting to keep the deer out, Steven asked Victor to haul the trash out of the back yard.

Steven and Victor have done this before. Victor and his team installed part of the landscaping at Sea Eagle, and tackled specific jobs at Emerald Hill during construction.

Now we create a clean slate at Emerald Hill.

When Jacquela and Steven bought Emerald Hill, the back yard was not a priority — saving the house from itself was where we focused.

Previous owners used the back yard as a storage yard for broken tree limbs, old dog toys, an old telephone system wiring box, detritus, cast offs. The sage, lantana and other plants were old, tired, thready. Volunteer hackberries had taken root, making the northeast corner dark, dumping leaves. Lumber used for edging around what purported to be planting beds was rotting away.

Victor and his brother Francisco set to work saving the back yard, racing against approaching rain.

Victor and Francisco have already chopped out an old, thready sage.
Victor and Francisco have already chopped out an old, thready sage. They trimmed lower branches off a bush that the deer would come into the back yard to eat, raising the canopy high enough that the deer can’t reach the lower limbs. The lantana at left is next to go, as are the two hackberry trees that volunteered to grow in the back corner to the left of the telephone pole.
A previous owner used timbers to edge the planting beds. Not a good idea -- fine dining for termites.
A previous owner used timbers to edge the planting beds. Not a good idea — fine dining for termites.
This is what timber used as edging looks like after years of lying in the ground feeding generations of termites.
This is what timber used as edging looks like after years of lying in the ground feeding generations of termites.
More bug-infested, rotted and rotten lumber, coming out, going away.
More bug-infested, rotted and rotten lumber, coming out, going away. The pile of rocks will be used as part of the landscaping when Victor moves this project past demo and into development.
Victor lines the cleaned out bed with brick left over from demo and construction of the house. This gets the brick off the driveway and puts it to constructive use.
Victor lines the cleaned out bed with brick left over from demo and construction of the house. This gets the brick off the driveway and puts it to constructive use.
Francisco rakes new gravel atop the old gravel at the north side of the house, creating a deep layer that we hope retards weed growth. The plastic shed sat atop the gravel. It will be relocated to the northeast corner, where the hackberries have been hacked out.
Francisco rakes new gravel atop the old gravel at the north side of the house, creating a deep layer that we hope retards weed growth. The plastic shed sat atop the gravel. It will be relocated to the northeast corner, where the hackberries have been hacked out.
Francisco begins rolling out landscape fabric that will go into gravel bed along the back fence. The gravel provides drainage. The weed block blocks weeds -- we hope.
Francisco begins rolling out landscape fabric that will go into gravel bed along the back fence. The gravel provides drainage. The weed block blocks weeds — we hope.

And then the rains came.

To be continued.

 

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Weed whacking

The real estate agent — Sari Pearce — connected Steven with Jose Vences, landscaper. Today, Jose is at Sea Eagle cutting back the wild grasses that grew tall through the summer and then gray in winter; blowing and raking up all the leaves; pulling weeds; mowing the small front and back lawns. Everything seemed to collect on the surface of the pool, which Steven cleaned twice as Jose and the 30mph winds wreaked havoc.

Above, Jose threshes the tall grass at the hill next to the pool.

At the other side of the pool, the field of wild grass is hacked close in hopes of spring rain. Next to the pool, a field of bluebonnets is growing -- one of Steven's favorite signs of what passes for the blink that is Spring in Texas.
At the other side of the pool, the field of wild grass is hacked close in hopes of spring rain. Next to the pool, a field of bluebonnets is growing — one of Steven’s favorite signs of what passes for the blink that is Spring in Texas.
The front lawn, neat and edged.
The front lawn, neat and edged.
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Working the pile, again

Ramon continues to whittle away at the pile of dirt carved out to form the foundation of the new garage bay. Here he is, above, about mid-day. By end of day, he’s down to a layer of dirt atop the asphalt driveway.

Victor is designing a berm at the front of the lot to hold water back from the street -- giving it more time to soak into the turf. Why? There's enough good black dirt to do this.
Victor is designing a berm at the front of the lot to hold water back from the street — giving it more time to soak into the turf. Why? There’s enough good black dirt to do this.
Most of the boxes inside the house are emptied and crushed flat. Steven takes them out to the gravel patio off the kitchen-side of the house, stacking them for recycling. But ... there are boxes that must be saved -- for the computer monitors, the speakers, the new pots and pans that Steven bought Jacquela as a housewarming gift nearly a year ago. For these special boxes, Steven cleared space in the garage, erected a ladder, and, with Jadin's help, carried the boxes into the storage loft atop the new garage bay. Here are the first denizens of Upper Boxland, stacked as far back as possible.
Most of the boxes inside the house are emptied and crushed flat. Steven takes them out to the gravel patio off the kitchen-side of the house, stacking them for recycling. But … there are boxes that must be saved — for the computer monitors, the speakers, the new pots and pans that Steven bought Jacquela as a housewarming gift nearly a year ago. For these special boxes, Steven cleared space in the garage, erected a ladder, and, with Jadin’s help, carried the boxes into the storage loft atop the new garage bay. Here are the first denizens of Upper Boxland, stacked as far back as possible.

Jacquela tested the washing machine for the first time this morning. Steven discovered water pooling in the pan under the tankless water heater upstairs. Ranserve dispatched Barry from Custom Plumbing, who adjusted the condensate hose fitting into the drain pipe. The water should not be backing up and filling the pan. We’ll see if this fix works.

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